None of this makes much sense. Barcelona remain over a billion dollars in debt. He must cut his annual wage bill by $144m to meet La Liga’s strict financial regulations. He announced the signing of two players he hasn’t been able to sign up yet while he sorts out the budget. And yet, Barcelona went ahead and decided to spend $50m on a player who turns 34 next month, who had just one year left on his contract and was desperate to move on from his old one. club.
There can be little doubt that Robert Lewandowski is a brilliant footballer. He has scored 312 goals in the last 12 seasons in the Bundesliga. In 78 Champions League games for Bayern Munich, he scored 69 times (including two against Barcelona in last season’s group stage and once against Barca in the famous 8-2 quarter-final thrashing in 2020). He is the model of the modern centre-forward, as he is mobile, happy to drop deep and attack from distance and deadly in front of goal. He can direct and he can press. If he hadn’t been a near-contemporary of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he probably would have won multiple Ballons d’Or. As it stands, he has won the last two Best FIFA Men’s Player awards.
And he’s a 33-year-old. He is clearly in great shape. His famous nutritionist wife feeds him dessert before the main course, which apparently helps the body burn fat more efficiently. Based on the evidence, Lewandowski would seem like a pretty compelling case study. Age eventually hits all players – even Ronaldo started to slow down in his mid-30s – but Lewandowski should be at least a few years older somewhere near his prime. In his eight seasons at Bayern, he only missed 23 games through injury.
But Lewandowski’s quality is not the problem. When Joan Laporta took over as Barcelona president in 2020 from Josep Bartomeu, his main job seemed to be to sort out the club’s finances. Barcelona have been blessed with a group of talented young players – Gavi, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Sergiño Dest, Riqui Puig among them – who, it seems, could provide a profitable, exciting and largely home-based core that could help out the club as budgets were cut. If things were really bad, a couple could have been sold. When Ferran Torres, now 22, was snapped up from Manchester City for €55m ($62m at the time) with a potential of up to €65m, it seemed like a decision. more ambitious, but anchored in the same logic: Buy young, develop, then resell potentially.
Lewandowski does not fit this model. It will have no resale value. He will almost certainly improve Barcelona, but it’s very hard to see how a signing of his weight could be considered a priority given the club’s financial instability. Barça could already select a forward line from Ansu Fati, Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Memphis Depay and Ousmane Dembélé (the latter’s contract has just been extended, while releasing him would have been an easy way to reduce the payroll), and that was before a $58 million deal was agreed for Brazilian star Raphinha from Leeds United. And as Lewandowski arrives, Barcelona are trying to force Frenkie de Jong out, despite owing him $17m in salary he deferred during the pandemic (and it’s not at all clear that de Jong is either). the only player in this situation).
Scroll to continue
Barcelona even seem aware of how dreadful it all looks, at least if you believe the story in The country that the fee for Lewandowski is actually $60m, with Barcelona agreeing to pay extra to force the deal in exchange for keeping the extra $10m quiet.
This summer looks like a huge bet for Barcelona. Perhaps some arguments can be made that Lewandowski is as close to a sure thing as any transfer. Its acquisition reinforces a message of business as usual. But amid the greatest amount of spending this summer, it seems totally unwarranted. Barcelona hope they can afford it by selling off percentages of future TV revenue and almost half of the company they set up to run their marketing. Mortgaging the future, however, is a very dangerous approach. It feels like Barcelona are rolling the dice on some sort of European Super League being created (with a case currently in European courts to test whether UEFA is abusing a monopoly position), which in theory , could present a remedy. to its financial difficulties and renders any current concerns moot.
And that also seems to be a risk for Lewandowski. His relationship with Bayern – always professional rather than particularly warm – is clearly fractured beyond repair. He wanted to get out of it, and he often spoke of his desire to play in La Liga. The clásicos with him and Karim Benzema would have a new layer of appeal. But he must know what risk it is and what he has forced himself into. And maybe that’s part of the appeal. After eight years of easy league titles at Bayern, the challenge of resurrecting Barcelona may be just what he needs.
On the pitch, Barcelona are building a squad that could be fascinating to watch this season. Other than that, however, the collapse looks ominous.
More football coverage: